As part of the development of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3), an objective analysis of the country's current situation regarding the economic situation, scientific research, and innovation, called a quantitative and qualitative analysis (mapping phase), was carried out to identify potential priority sectors for the country's smart economic development. In this way, six priority areas where Albania should specialize intelligently were identified:
1. Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry
2. Manufacturing Industry
5. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)
6. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
From a qualitative analysis, the following cross-sectoral areas can be considered for further assessment:
1. Blue Economy
2. Healthy Food
3. Renewable Resources Energy
4. Extended BPO
Collaboration with stakeholders following the "Quadruple Helix" approach, involving representatives from central and local government, academia, businesses, and civil society, forms the core of the S3 development. In this context, to fully assess the potential for smart specialization in the identified priority areas during the mapping phase, a series of roundtable discussions, national workshops, and regional workshops with neighboring countries were organized involving stakeholders of the quadruple helix during the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP).
Agriculture has been identified as one of the priority sectors showing positive prospects for intelligent development within the framework of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3). In the S3 mapping report titled "Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis of Economic, Research-Scientific, and Innovative Capacities, Resources, and Potentials for Smart Specialization" (2022), Agriculture was identified as one of the priority areas. Technological innovation in the agricultural sector is considered highly important for reducing costs, increasing productivity, production, income for agricultural units, as well as addressing labor market gaps. Recently, there have been interesting experiences in the agricultural sector related to the use of robotics and automation solutions and investments in innovation.
The Manufacturing sector has been identified as one of the potential priority sectors for the intelligent economic development of the country during the mapping phase of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3). The Manufacturing Industry has represented and continues to represent a significant portion of the Albanian economy, creating new jobs for years. Therefore, further intelligent development of this field would be of interest to the country. The inclusion of innovative methods and the use of modern technology in the Manufacturing Industry can translate into added value for the Albanian economy in the future. The potential offered by the Albanian market today is primarily related to the exploitation of competitive advantages, ranging from low production costs to offering high-quality final products. To assess the full potential for intelligent specialization in the Manufacturing Industry, a series of roundtable discussions and a national workshop were organized, involving stakeholders from the quadruple helix, with a focus on several sub-sectors such as Wood Processing, Textile and Leather Processing, Primary Mineral Processing, Automotive Manufacturing, and Building Materials Processing.
The energy sector is one of the six fields that, according to mapping, has resulted in the potential to significantly contribute to the development of the Albanian economy if specialized intelligently. Through the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3), the Albanian government aims to formulate a cross-sectoral strategy to identify priority areas. The purpose of this strategy is to create a competitive advantage and increase the value in the Albanian economy for the future. S3 is a strategy mandated by the European Union for its member states and candidate countries, including Albania as part of the Western Balkans agenda.
Tourism has been identified as one of the priority sectors that show positive prospects for intelligent development within the framework of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3). This sector is one of the strategic sectors that influences the growth of a sustainable and inclusive economy through attracting domestic and foreign investments, increasing employment, and promoting other sectors of the economy related to it. The development of digital technologies and the application of innovative ideas enable the full utilization of the potential of tourism technologies in terms of smart specialization. The integration of innovative approaches and the implementation of contemporary technologies in tourism sub-sectors such as coastal tourism, mountain tourism, health tourism, and agrotourism are at the center of activities developed within S3. Detailed analyses of the development capacities and competitive advantages of the country, assessed during the mapping phase of S3, identify tourism as a field where innovation and smart specialization will translate into added value for the Albanian economy in the future.
The ICT sector has been identified as a priority during the mapping analysis of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3). This sector can be intelligently specialized to provide added value to the economy. What sets the priority ICT field apart is its applicability in other sectors identified through the analysis of priority fields, enabling innovation and digitalization of production and service processes for interested stakeholders. In this context, innovation in various sectors of the economy is considered an excellent solution towards diversifying the market towards innovative digital products and services.
The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector has been identified as one with notable development potential in Albania, particularly in terms of foreign investments and youth employment today. With further development in technological sectors, the BPO industry is expected to grow rapidly, both nationally and internationally, thus offering new job opportunities and increasing the presence of foreign businesses in the country. The BPO sector has been identified as a priority during the analysis of priority fields that enable intelligent specialization of the economy, thanks to advancements in digital technologies and new investment opportunities. Further integrations, specifically in the IT sector, are considered by stakeholders as a possible development path for the BPO industry, involving investments in digital connectivity, energy distribution, and economic promotion of the sector, thereby providing value-added services. At the same time, the sector will have opportunities to penetrate valuable segments with lower costs.